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Some people choose to wear contact lenses as an alternative to glasses. The cost of contact lenses varies and depends on lens prescription and the type of lens a person chooses.

This article looks at the various factors that affect the cost of contact lenses.

Typically, contact lenses correct vision issues. Many lenses improve various types of refractive errors and other conditions, including:

Some people that wear glasses for one of the above conditions may also wear contact lenses.

A person may also wear contact lenses to promote eye healing. Bandage lenses or therapeutic lenses are contact lenses that cover the eye’s surface to protect the cornea after surgery or trauma while it heals.

Contact lenses may not suit everyone. For example, if a person has dry eyes or inflammation of the cornea (keratitis) or eyelid, contact lenses may further irritate or incorrectly fit their eye. As such, an eye doctor may advise against using contact lenses.

It is difficult to determine the exact cost for contact lenses since various factors play a role, including:

  • whether the lens is soft or hard
  • the replacement schedule
  • how many lenses a person purchases
  • whether or not the lenses have tints
  • whether a person needs specifically tailored lenses for a particular condition, such as astigmatism

A person may use their health savings account (HSA) or their flexible savings account (FSA) to pay for their contact lenses, but most health insurers do not provide vision benefits.

Some insurance plans may offer vision care as an optional extra for an additional fee. In these cases, plans may cover the cost of contact lenses, and a person should contact their plan provider to confirm coverage and check the claiming process.

Different types of lenses, materials, and tints may affect the cost of contact lenses.

Materials

The material used in contact lenses includes the following:

  • Hard lenses/rigid gas permeable lenses: The material used in a hard lens includes stiff plastic, such as polymethyl methacrylate. Hard lenses often cost less than soft lenses and don’t tear as often.
  • Soft lenses: Usually, soft lens material includes flexible plastic, such as hydrogel or silicone hydrogel.

Tint

The primary type of tinted contact lenses available include:

  • Visibility tinted: This type of tint does not alter the natural eye color. But the lens is lightly tinted.
  • Color enhancement: Color enhancement lenses enhance the color of the iris, but the lens does not entirely change the eye color. Instead, it intensifies a person’s natural eye color.
  • Opaque: Opaque lenses change the eye’s natural color. For instance, if a person’s natural eye color is green and they chose brown lenses, their eyes would only appear brown. Colors can range from realistic to more dramatic effects, such as red.

Wear length

The length of time a person can wear contact lenses without taking them out may also vary by type and affect cost. Options include:

  • Daily wear: These lenses are disposable. Individuals remove daily wear lenses at the end of each day and reinsert a fresh pair the following day.
  • Extended wear: A person can wear extended wear lenses for up to 6 days, including during sleep. Some lenses may also have a wear period of up to 30 days. Extended wear lenses typically use soft plastics that are breathable and allow oxygen to reach the eye.

Over 45 million people wear contact lenses. Contact lenses are safe for most people to wear. But complications, such as an eye infection, can develop without proper care.

An individual must obtain a prescription for contact lenses from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. It is not legal to purchase decorative or cosmetic contact lenses in the United States without a prescription.

An eye doctor determines the type of lens that best suits an individual’s visual needs.

An individual can buy contact lenses in person at a retail store or by ordering online. Below are several brands of contact lenses, along with information on the types of lenses sold.

Johnson & Johnson Vision

Johnson & Johnson provides many lens options, such as their Acuvue range. They offer daily, bi-weekly, and monthly contact lenses, in various prescriptions, including lenses for astigmatism.

Some Acuvue lenses also use technology that allows the lens to adapt to changing light.

Alcon

Alcon offers many lenses in their Air Optix range, including those for astigmatism.

Their lenses have a silicone hydrogel design for comfort. Air Optix offers multifocal and color enhancement lenses, available as daily wear or extended wear for up to 6 days.

Alcon also offers their Dailies range that uses ‘Smart Tears’ technology. Each time a person blinks, Smart Tears provides added moisture to reduce dry eyes.

Bausch & Lomb

Bausch & Lomb has various lenses to correct various vision problems, including astigmatism, presbyopia, and other refractive errors.

Some options include daily wear lenses and lenses approved for wear of up to 30 days.

CooperVision

CooperVision’s contact lens offering includes Biofinity, MyDay, Clariti, and many more. Their replacement schedule varies, but they offer a range of options from daily disposable to monthly options for various eye conditions. The material of the lens helps lock water in, which may improve dryness and promote comfort.

Where to buy

There are many online retailers offering contact lenses from multiple brands. Some of these include:

To maintain optimal eye health, the American Optometric Association advises on the importance of regular eye exams, as changes can often be otherwise undetectable. Regular eye exams help diagnose certain eye diseases before symptoms become apparent.

Eye exams are even more important for individuals that wear contact lenses. They come with an increased risk of serious eye conditions, including:

Other complications for those that use contact lenses include:

  • allergy flares that could affect the eyes
  • bumps under the eyelids, known as giant papillary conjunctivitis
  • contact lens-induced acute red eye (CLARE) that causes redness and irritation
  • dry eyes

Regular eye exams and comprehensive eye exams monitor any changes in the eyes attributed to wearing contacts.

Several factors affect the cost of the lenses, including lens type, lens material correction needed, replacement schedule, and tint.

The frequency a person replaces their lenses and whether a person’s health insurance covers contacts affects costs. Some manufactures offer rebates, which helps lower costs.